Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: Unfinished business bugs yachties

Team NZ feel testing sessions incomplete but they must now pack up and head to San Francisco.

Team NZ face six weeks of nail-biting frustration as their boat travels to San Francisco.  Photo / Greg Bowker
Team NZ face six weeks of nail-biting frustration as their boat travels to San Francisco. Photo / Greg Bowker

There's a sense of frustration in the Team New Zealand camp as they begin packing up their boat today knowing they haven't got as much out of their second period of testing in Auckland as they had hoped.

Team New Zealand's striking AC72 catamaran has virtually been a permanent fixture on the water off Auckland over summer, but from today they will begin the process of packing up their boat and shipping it off to San Francisco, where they will complete their America's Cup preparations.

The team, with spies of their rivals watching on, went for their final sail on the Hauraki Gulf yesterday, ticking off one of the more poignant milestones in their campaign for Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker.

"It will be sad not to be out there again in these boats but hopefully all the hard work we've put in here will pay off when we get to San Francisco," Barker said.

But by this stage they had hoped to be further advanced with their sailing programme.

Since launching their second boat nearly two months ago, Team New Zealand have only managed to get in 19 days of sailing, leaving them with plenty of learning still to do when they get themselves set up at the America's Cup venue.

"It's a bit frustrating," Barker said. "We'd like to do a few more days but the logistics people tell us we can't, so that's a bit disappointing but we'll just have to carry a lot of that over now to the sailing we do in San Francisco."

Barker and his crew face plenty more frustration to come. With their boat sitting in a container for the next six weeks, there's little they can do but sit on their hands as they watch their San Francisco-based competitors eat into the gains Team New Zealand has made over summer.

The World Series regatta in Naples this month should help distract the team for a couple of weeks, but at this stage of the game racing in the smaller, one-design AC45 catamarans holds little value to their quest for the America's Cup.

Defenders Oracle and Swedish challenger Artemis have opted not to send their top crews to Naples for the regatta, instead focusing on their AC72 sailing programmes back in San Francisco.

Had the event been scheduled at a time when Team New Zealand had their AC72 in commission, they would have done the same.

"[Racing the AC45s] may not be overly applicable to what we can expect in San Francisco, but it's still racing, it's still competition and putting yourself under pressure, so if there was a good use of some of that time it's going to be up there," Barker said.

As the team prepared for their final day of sailing, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen popped into the base to deliver a motivational talk to the crew. It didn't take Hansen long to adapt to the secretive, paranoid world of the America's Cup.

Asked if he could see any similarities between Team New Zealand's operations and the way the All Blacks go about their business, Hansen replied: "I don't want to go into it too much because I don't want to give too much away to the opposition, from what I understand there's a lot of espionage involved in the sport."

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said the All Blacks' coach spoke a lot about seizing the moment and being able to perform under massive pressure as the team look to change gear from testing and development, to competing.

With their sights now firmly set on San Francisco, Dalton said there has been a noticeable shift in intensity in the camp.

"It really started to hit home that it's time when they came in and started packing up our chairs. But we feel ready, we feel like it's time to get on with it."

The next three months


Team New Zealand will start packing up their boat and operations to be shipped to San Francisco.

April 16-21

The final America's Cup World Series event (raced in the smaller, one-design AC45 catamarans) to be staged in Naples, Italy.

May 6-10

The container ship carrying Team New Zealand's catamaran is due to arrive in San Francisco.

May 23

The team aim to have their boat commissioned and ready for its first sail at the venue.

July 7

Racing starts in Louis Vuitton Cup.

- NZ Herald

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